Westfield High School Girls Basketball Tops Hillside, 71-58

Westfield's Olivia Luzzi plays intense defense against Hillside's Yaline Santiago. Credits: Michael Bergman

WESTFIELD, NJ — The chemistry and communication between Westfield's players propelled them to a 71-58 victory over Hillside Friday night. Westfield (12-0) got 20 points from guard junior Lillian Scott. Hillside (5-5) got 31 points from their junior phenom Yasimine Robinson-Bacote.

“We're feeling good,” said Westfield Head Coach Joseph Marino. “We get ready all the time, we’re ready for each team. This team came is a little physical, we knew they were going to be physical. We kept our composure and did what we had to do.”

The Blue Devils entered the home matchup undefeated at 11-0, to extend their best start in school history. Guards Lillian Scott and Jackie Knapp have been Westfield's main source of offense throughout the season, combining to average about 36 points per game. Blue Devils captain senior Carly Friedman had a team high in rebounds with eight, and a team high in steals with eight.

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The Comets entered that night 5-4, looking to end Westfield’s undefeated run and up their record to two games above .500 at 6-4. Hillside's top scorer Robinson-Bacote, averaging about 25 points per game, was determined to find ways to score against Westfield's havoc defense.

Hillside scored the first four points of the game off of several Westfield turnovers. The Comets were able to beat Westfield's backcourt havoc defense, quickly finding wide-open shooters who scored easy baskets. Their intense backcourt defense made Westfield's guards force bad passes, which lead to Westfield's slow start.

Marino called an early timeout, stealing some momentum away from Hillside. Coming back, Westfield started to beat Hillside's backcourt defense, dribbling past defenders, leading to easy scoring opportunities.

Westfield’s intense pressure defense started to take effect and the Blue Devils started to create lots of turnover in the backcourt and took advantage of them, scoring many points in transition.

This momentum shift sparked the Blue Devils, who went on an 18-5 run during the last seven minutes of the first quarter. Westfield led Hillside 18-9.

During the second quarter the Blue Devils ran down the court and scored multiple times before the Comets' defense could even set up. Westfield's intense focus on defense kept forcing lots of jump balls, as Hillside struggled to score with any consistency.

The Comets gave the basketball to Robinson-Bacote on most offensive possessions, but pressured Robinson-Bacote into taking poor shots.

Hillside Head Coach Sjocquelyn Winstead saw Robinson-Bacote struggling to shoot. After she missed a shot with 3:30 left in the first half, Winstead shouted to her, “They studied you! Come on, I know your better than that.”

About two minutes later, with 1:37 before halftime, the crowd cheered whenWestfield’s Scott banked in an one-one layup assisted by Knapp. Before Scott’s free throw attempt, Hillside made a substitution, taking Robinson-Bacote out of the game for the remainder of the first half.  Scott made the free throw, extending Westfield's lead to 31-15.

Coach Marino talked about preparing for Hillside’s offense juggernaut.

“We’ve pretty much been watching out who their best players are. We watch a lot of film so we know what their moves are so we stay on top of them,” he explained.

During the second quarter, Westfield outscored Hillside 15-8, going into halftime with a 33-17 lead.

Throughout the third quarter Hillside limited the Blue Devil’s offensive production. The Comets hustled back on defense to limit Westfield's up-tempo style of offense. Robinson-Bacote got into rhythm, scoring most of Hillside's third quarter points.

Westfield struggled to make their shots as their scoring in the third quarter dipped slightly. Hillside edged the Blue Devils in third quarter scoring, outscoring the them 13-12. At the end of the third quarter, Westfield lead Hillside 45-30.

During the beginning of the fourth quarter Hillside's Robinson-Bacote went on a scoring tear, making almost every shot she attempted. Westfield wouldn't let a lapse in defensive consistency affect their offense.

Although the Comets cut Westfield's lead to single digits, the Blue Devils kept scoring off of assists from Knapp, who led the team with seven. Westfield made 21 field goals in the game, and 18 of them were off assists.

Westfield survived a fourth quarter scoring rampage from Hillside, scoring 28 points. The Blue Devils kept up, scoring 26 points, to win 71-58, a season high in points for Westfield and one point short of tying their season high for Hillside. Hillside has scored 117 points combined in their last two games, scoring a season high 59 points the previous night versus. Elizabeth.

Westfield will play Elizabeth Jan. 21 at Dunn Sports Center.

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